Flyers bet big on veteran talent, bounce-back goaltending
Yann Danis, Ray Emery, Vincent Lecavalier, Kris Newbury, Mark Streit.
Brian Boucher, Danny Briere, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ruslan Fedotenko, Kurtis Foster, Jody Shelley, Danny Syvret.
Last year: Give the Flyers points for effort.
They swung hard prior to last year to wrestle Shea Weber away from Nashville with a mammoth 14-year, $110 million offer sheet. Unfortunately, it backfired when the Preds matched.
Boy, could the Flyers have used Shea Weber last season.
The season started off on the wrong foot with the team dropping five of their first seven, failing to score more than two goals in any of those losses.
The team tried rejuvenating the lineup with old blood by re-acquiring Simon Gagne at the end of February, but the offence was not really the problem in 2013. When the Flyers won, they scored a lot, registering five goals or more in almost half their wins.
Through the end of March, the lockout-shortened season was just one that the Flyers couldn’t seem to get going. The team went the first three months of the season without stringing more than two wins together at any point.
Philly was in the conversation for a lottery pick on April 13 and then rattled off their best stretch of the year, winning six of their last seven largely thanks to stellar goaltending from a newly re-signed Steve Mason.
This Year: The off-season shuffle in Philly involved tons of money, decades worth of contract and a few NHL captains.
Ilya Bryzgalov and his remaining seven years were sent packing - destination presently unknown. Daniel Briere, too, was sent on his way, taking the $13 million in cap space he would have eaten up between now and the summer of 2015 along with him.
Incoming are Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier - himself the recipient of a 14-year buyout from the Bolts – and Islanders captain Mark Streit, whom the Flyers scooped via trade prior to free agency and inked for four years. The club also has Hal Gill on a tryout contract entering camp.
But the eventful summer would not end there.
Claude Giroux would injure his finger golfing in the middle of August, forcing surgery and a five-to-six week recovery period.
While the injury could easily have been worse, it was not the kind of good luck bounce the Flyers were hoping for after such a down season.
Philly’s got plenty of talent up front, so if they can integrate Lecavalier well and get similar production out of the likes of Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, the goals should be there for them. The question is still whether they can keep the goals out.
Streit and Kimmo Timonen are still excellent offensive defencemen, but will the Flyers have the shutdown capability to handle more of Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash and John Tavares … to say nothing of Alex Ovechkin?
And then there’s the goaltending … but more on that later.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Flyers' performance after a shortened season?
This Flyers roster could be interesting to watch. Was last year a mirage or are there problems on the core of this roster that will only become more apparent with 34 more games to shoulder?
Neither Lecavalier nor Streit are young men and both will be around for at least the next four years. Both players will be interesting to watch to see if either/or can provide a veteran boost to Philly’s younger talents like Voracek, Sbisa and the brothers Schenn or whether the long year catches up with their legs.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Flyers make to get themselves back in cap shape?
The Flyers used both their buyouts, paying out over $26 million over to not ice Bryzgalov and Briere this season (or any of the following 13 in Ilya’s case).
They sunk nearly $10 million of those savings into getting Streit and Lecavalier on board, a risk in the case of Streit, since he’s over 35.
If Chris Pronger is not in the cards for Philly – and there’s little reason to realistically believe he is – then the Flyers can get under the cap despite their free spending.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Flyers after realignment.
The Flyers are usually a competitor in their division, whether it’s the Atlantic, Patrick or now the Metropolitan.
There’s little that will truly surprise the Flyers coming at them in the forms of Carolina, Columbus and Washington, so their odds of rebounding are not expected to be hindered by their new competitors.
That said, it will be fun to see if Bobrovsky plays with any added fire against the team that set him adrift just over a year ago.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Brayden Schenn, LW - The fifth overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Schenn has come along slowly, but is starting to take on a bigger role as he enters his peak years and he scored a career-high 26 points in 47 games last season.
Even in a secondary offensive role with the Flyers there is ample opportunity for Schenn to produce. Playing with Vincent Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds, for example, is better than standard second-line stuff around the league, so expect Schenn's point totals to continue to rise as his line takes advantage of more favourable matchups.
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Pressing Question: As usual, what's up with the goaltending?
Stop if you’ve heard this one before, but the Flyers have a problem between the pipes.
They cut Sergei Bobrovsky adrift after 2011-12, believing their investment in Bryzgalov would finally stop the very question posed above. Bobrovsky did nothing short of winning a Vezina Trophy to prove how wrong the Flyers had been.
Buying out Bryzgalov means one of three things for the Flyers crease, beyond the obvious cash savings.
Scenario One: The team saw enough out of Steve Mason in his seven games last season that they are convinced he’s not the three-goals-per-game injury risk he has been over parts of the past four seasons. A .944 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against in Philly to finish last year has convinced the Flyers that Mason can return to his Calder form of 2008-09.
Scenario Two: The team thinks Ray Emery is worth another shot. Emery’s numbers in the NHL have never been truly terrible. He’s only once finished the year with a GAA above 3.00 and he does have a Cup ring, albeit serving as the Hawks’ backup. His first go-round in Philly ended due to a serious injury, so perhaps the Flyers wanted to give him the net once more.
Scenario Three: The Flyers are going to roll the dice and hope that one or the other can once again be an NHL standout. This seems the most likely, since neither has followed the career trajectory expected of them.
So will it work out this time? Or will the crease carousel keep spinning in Philly?
- Philadelphia Flyers Preview by Shane McNeil, TSN.ca